When: Tue., April 19, 8 p.m. 2016
Sean Watkins’s sweet, keening voice injects sinister warmth into “What to Fear,” the title track of his new solo album on Thirty Tigers. The song examines the cynical tendency of media and business to sow fear and need among the public, manufacturing a craving for a kind of narcotic, meaningless comfort they’re more than happy to provide. Watkins has long been a key member of bluegrass-pop outfit Nickel Creek, and if you’re familiar with him in that context—his voice, his personality, his nimble guitar playing—you’ll definitely recognize him here. Except on the title track, though, Watkins doesn’t demonstrate the charisa or songwriting chops that might generate the same kind of excitement Nickel Creek does. The album is solid, and it has a strong supporting cast—including his sister and Nickel Creek bandmate, Sara Watkins—but most of the songs feel like boilerplate exercises, largely indistinguishable from the generic Americana clogging record bins year after year.